Kansas GOP Insider (wannabe): Governor Brownback should play it smart

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Governor Brownback should play it smart

Gov. Sam Brownback has a list of legislators he wants to see victorious in the Republican primary on Aug. 7 and they’re not necessarily the most conservative in each race. They are, however, the most likely to follow the party line with little regard for principle.
Case in point: Charlotte O’Hara.
The establishment hates her – in part, because she can’t just pick one issue. It seems there’s some unwritten rule that allows a legislator to break with the governor one time, but more than that and you will be branded with a scarlet letter.
O’Hara editorialized against STAR bonds to her constituents. She rattled cages against accepting federal money to set up health exchanges. She voted against funding for insurance with autism. And breaking with the governor is a state offense – probably soon to make one eligible for the death penalty.
She faces Sen. Pat Apple in a heated battle for the 37th District Senate seat as well as what I’ve heard is a very nice man from Paola named Daniel Campbell. Judging from his answers to the Americans for Prosperity-Kansas questionnaire, at the very least, he’s a fiscal conservative.
The newly created district, which aren’t they all -- covers part of Miami county and a southern part of Johnson County. I don’t know the area well enough to handicap the race. (Does anyone in Johnson County EVER go to Miami County? Don't answer that. It's rheotorical.)
Apple seems like a really nice guy, but also kind of like a squish who will go along to get along. If you look at his entire record, it really does appear he's blowing in the political winds. Apple isn’t exactly the incumbent due to the redrawing of lines, and O’Hara has never been elected to the Legislature. She replaced Ray Merrick in the Kansas House when he moved up to the Senate.
(Now Merrick is running for the House again in the hopes of being Speaker. And to my conspiracy-theorist mind, his change of heart for the House is all a big shell game to get O’Hara out of Topeka, though I’ve heard Merrick has endorsed her.)
There are a few House races where you’ll see Brownback stepping in to declare his public support. One example is Brett Hildebrand’s race. In the 17th District in Shawnee and Lenexa, Hildebrand faces a primary opponent named Jason Lieb. Judging from his website, he’s your basic Republican in Name Only. Nonetheless, he is a Republican, and when the day is over, we’re all supposed to be on the same team. Hildebrand isn’t exactly an incumbent in the race – he moved into the newly-drawn district the day after judges released Kansas’ reapportionment maps. Lieb is relatively a political unknown and could be more conservative than Abraham Lincoln crossed with Winston Churchill and Thomas Jefferson, but Brownback hosted a fundraiser for Hildebrand loudly declaring his choice candidate. (And though, I agree with his choice in the race…)
In other races, quietly behind the scenes, Brownback’s people are triangulating to insure that the most easily led are put into office.
The governor should just come out and say who he supports and why. Instead, he uses a handful of minions, specifically at the KansasChamber PAC and other places to do his bidding. This is not just a Democratic talking point. I firmly believe it is the absolute truth. They aren’t colluding in the formal sense – as in business luncheons to address a strategy, but members of the Governor’s staff are as good as anyone at finding the “right” person to tell the Governor’s thoughts and concerns. Those “right” people have no problem passing along the information to say, Jeff Glendening at the Chamber.
It’s not exactly Politics 101, but a graduate-level political science course it ain’t.
I believe I am on record here saying just how terrifically important I believe having a conservative Senate will be in the next few years, but if he was wise, the Governor would absolutely STAY OUT of all primary races.
That said, there are moderates (I’d call them RINOs) in a number of races across the state. Some of them may actually win. And as badly as Brownback wants his own handpicked sheeple in the legislature, he may have to work with RINOs next year.
As a wise man once said to me, what if they win? Mark my words (sadly) some of them will. And some of the conservatives, like O’Hara who aren’t in Brownback’s back pocket, will likely take some races as well.
When that happens, Brownback and his people will have no choice but to try and work with them. I promise it would be easier to do had the Govenor stayed out  – and by staying out of the races, I mean, STAYING OUT – not having your legislative assistants running their mouths across the state triangulating for Brownback’s choices. Their efforts are transparent to anyone who has ever donned a campaign t-shirt and walked a neighborhood.

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